While we haven't even full closed out the 2015 waterfowl season yet, planning is underway to set the season dates and bag limits for the waterfowl seasons for next year already. Due to a change in timing of the federal and state regulation cycle process, this year and moving forward the Michigan Citizens Waterfowl Advisory Committee will be sharing their input with the DNR in January. What that means for anyone who hunts waterfowl in Michigan is that it's time to share your opinions on how Michigan should be changing its season dates and zones to allow you to achieve your optimal hunting conditions (weather, timing, number of birds, working around other key dates).
But save your family, friends, and hunting partners the divisive debate at Christmas dinner, and just share your thoughts with us!
Michigan's 2015 black bear hunting season came to an end in October, and we now have the preliminary registration results. Statewide 1,625 bears were harvested by state-licensed hunters in 2015 (which does not include tribal harvest of another 71 bears), meaning bear harvest increased about 12% since 2014 as success rates climbed yet again. However, Michigan's current harvest level remains about 30% below the peak harvest occurring in 2006 of 2,400 bears. Regulations and quotas are on stabilized 2-year cycles, so no changes are supposed to be made until 2017. But that didn't stop many bear hunters and the DNR, at the most recent Bear Forum meeting in St. Ignace, from proposing lots of ideas on how to ensure a stable to growing bear population in the face of higher success rates and address other issues regarding commercial guiding and bait.
By MUCC Policy Intern Ashley Bur
As the sound of the alarm went off at 4am, I stumbled out of bed reaching for the light. The day was here, I had been waiting weeks for this, and it was going to be my day to shine, or so I thought as I got ready for my very first ever hunt.
The previous day had been spent in preparation, purchasing licenses and steel shot ammunition, etc. But now the day had come and I had nerves from here to the moon. Last weekend was practice. Shooting clay pigeons and getting comfortable with a gun. If you can’t tell already, this is coming from someone who’s barely even shot a gun. I had no idea what to expect, but the excitement was overwhelming.
On the Ground united with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) in “The Big Wild” this weekend to plant ~1,000 tree seedlings of various species such as white oak, red oak, nine-bark, and serviceberry. Under the sun for eight hours on a Saturday, eighteen volunteers dedicated their day to improving wildlife habitat in the Pigeon River Country State Forest; half of them associated with various Michigan chapters of RMEF!
Believe it or not, it is indeed June already! Time has just been flying by through my service as the Huron Pines AmeriCorps member here with MUCC. As this month marks the halfway point of my term as the Wildlife Volunteer Coordinator for MUCC’s On the Ground program; June is also designated as Great Outdoors Month each year through a Presidential Proclamation. An entire month is dedicated to celebrating and experiencing the great outdoors by presenting national event dates throughout the month. That’s pretty darn cool.
Wildlife also walks along Michigan's North Country Trail
Michigan has many beautiful places; take advantage of them and go on a hike in one of Michigan's recreation areas for National Trails Day, kayak and fish a different lake or river in Michigan each day for National Fishing & Boating Week (with a water source only 6 miles away in any direction you go, this should be easy to accomplish), explore a part of your nearby state land that's unfamiliar to you for Get Outdoors day-maybe you'll find a prime public land hunting spot for this fall! Those are some great examples of the opportunities presented during this month dedicated to getting outdoors and appreciating our public land; how fortunate we are here in Michigan to have so much to appreciate.
P.S. Lovejoy Memorial along the Shingle Mill Pathway in the Pigeon River Country
Many great hunter-conservationists and naturalists alike come to mind at the thought if this designated month. Theodore Roosevelt, Bernd Heinrich, Aldo Leopold, Daniel Boone, Edward Abbey, Sigurd F. Olson, Henry David Thoreau, P.S. Lovejoy are just a few of many that impact my perspective of both hunting and wildlife conservation. They come to mind because something as simple as attending or participating in one of these activities could be the spark that ignites the fire to follow a path towards being a leader in conservation for yourself or the next generation!
As for me, I have always had an interest in anything that crawls, swims, jumps, gallops, flies, or slithers. I have my parents to thank for immersing me in an outdoor-based lifestyle from the very start. I made every effort to contribute to what I had witnessed as the family Labrador showing his love and gratitude by bringing rabbits, birds, and squirrels to my parents. I often greeted my family members with "gifts" of minnows, big fish, frogs, salamanders, baby mice, chipmunks, and the occasional bird; but my gifts were still living and usually left unscathed. I was always so proud of my catch, using only my bare hands for most, and wanted to share my prizes with everyone before I released the wild things back to their natural habitat.
the 2015 Huron Pines AmeriCorps Members after our Signature Service Project
I, among many other hunters, still carry this eager desire to learn about the way a wild thing lives; where and at what point of the day or night it feeds and sleeps, what it eats, what habitat it thrives in. This information is essential to a hunter but also to a conservationist. As a hunter, I enjoy everything that goes into the big picture of a hunt. A substantial part of that big picture is the wildlife's habitat; where they thrive. I am happy to be continuing on my path to a career and lifestyle in wildlife conservation through this service and the great opportunities that got me here.
I feel great about doing my part to get outdoors and give back to wildlife alongside volunteers from various backgrounds. MUCC's On the Ground (OTG) program will be planting trees with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in the Pigeon River Country this Saturday, June 6th- see more details and sign up to volunteer here. Also, June 19th happens to be the month's National Day of Service and you can find OTG in the Pigeon River Country State Forest contributing more to Elk habitat. Don't miss out on opportunities to experience the great outdoors this month; we won't be!
By Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator, MUCC
We have been hearing for years that this day would come, that the dreaded statement “CWD is in the Michigan wild deer herd” would be uttered. While this is horrible news, and the effects of this discovery will be felt in the surrounding townships and counties for years to come, let’s sit back and breathe for a minute.Read more
Especially me. I was at MUCC for just a year when CWD first paid Michigan a visit, to a captive deer in Kent County in 2008. Thankfully, it was the only one. But the resulting peninsula-wide ban on baiting and feeding (which MUCC supported) made me the subject of leers, booing, and even personal threats. I literally had nightmares of being pelted by carrots and apples after testifying at the NRC in support of the baiting ban.
Since that time, Michigan's CWD Surveillance and Response Plan was updated (in 2012) to be a little more surgical in its approach based on the situation at present. Accordingly, this time the CWD Management Zone spans only three counties (Ingham, Clinton, and Shiawassee) where baiting and feeding is appropriately banned. The CWD Core Area will now have unlimited antlerless deer licenses and all deer harvested must be checked and tested by the DNR in the Core Area, which encompasses 9 townships (Alaiedon, Delhi, Lansing, Meridian, Wheatfield and Williamstown townships in Ingham County; Bath and DeWitt townships in Clinton County; and Woodhull Township in Shiawassee County).
I live and hunt in this zone. The deer was killed in my old neighborhood in Meridian Township and I now live less than 3 miles away.
The minute I found out my mind, of course, was swirling—sadness, fear, and anger at however and whomever brought this to mid-Michigan. But, I have a science degree, and I know it's important to stick with the facts and remain as rational as possible (my husband might say that wildlife management is the only place in my life where I really apply this rationality, but I digress). Here's a few snippets of the thoughts and conversations around our dinner table in the last week:
- Do we throw out all the venison from our freezer? No. There is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans.
- Do we keep our toddler and dogs locked up inside? Again, no. No other species are known to contract CWD.
- Will we hunt this year in the Core Area? Yes. The DNR needs all the deer they can to test and see how far and to what extent this disease has impacted the herd. We are also looking at getting the out of season landowner disease control permits to help in the effort.
- Will we eat any deer we harvest in the Core Area? My head says yes, as long as they are confirmed CWD-negative. However, the practicality is that it depends. The testing may take 7-10 days and because we typically do all of our own processing, do you spend considerable time and effort doing that in hopes that the test is negative? Maybe not. We will be talking to the DNR about some ways to make it easier for hunters in the area to deal with this lag time and options for disposal for people that don't want to consume it regardless of the test results. I am putting in my order for a quarter of beef now just in case recommendations or the circumstances change.
- Do we buy into the conspiracy theories out there about how this came to Meridian Township? No! There are enough tinfoil hats and black helicopters out there. Let's stick with the facts and not help rumors run rampant until something is confirmed.
- Do we till under the wildlife food plots we JUST planted? This is a personal choice I suppose. While baiting and feeding is illegal in the CWD Management Zone, food plots are not. We will likely be more effective in helping the DNR harvest deer on our property if we have them, but they could congregate the deer and increase transmission to some extent. We have decided that since they are already planted, we might as well let them grow. With this being our first time, we aren't really sure how they will do anyways. But we probably won't be doing any extensive fertilization or replanting in the next couple of years until we know more.
It continues to be a sad time for deer hunters in Mid-Michigan, but on the bright side, maybe it will free up a few more of my weekends for duck hunting.
With it being a holiday weekend I was concerned, but still hopeful, about the volunteer turnout for this event. However, George Lindquist pulled through with his connections to the UP Whitetails Association of Marquette and Alger counties and we had a great turnout of volunteers eager to get their hands in the dirt on a Sunday morning! A total of 18 people planted 140 oak trees in a 35 acre stand of the Gwinn State Forest in South Marquette County.
In the mid 1990’s, UP Whitetails paid for an oak planting at this same site. Bill Rollo, the DNR Wildlife Technician for the area, stated that "Several decades later, I recall noting several oaks that successfully recruited and survived (most were 8 to 10 feet tall, a couple were over 20 feet tall)." To ensure even better regeneration this time, larger oak saplings were planted rather than the smaller seedlings more vulnerable to browse by wildlife. Volunteers planted two different oak species that are more resistant to oak wilt disease, such as burr oak and red oaks.
In this case, many hands made for light work, but I still felt good and tired after planting seven tall oak saplings at a steady pace. This particular location had good soils for digging; not too rocky and not too sandy. As always promised, lunch was provided by MUCC for our volunteers. We all enjoyed pizza from a local Gwinn Restaurant- Rodney's Pizzeria. Volunteers earned this great food after a great event with meaningful conversations and even some curiosity and admiration from others. Dirt-stained jeans and overwhelming amounts of deet tend to draw attention; even from da Yoopers.
This weekend proved to be another great example of Michigan hunters, fishers, and trappers uniting to support the conservation of wildlife; especially where it is needed most for the UP's whitetail deer herds! This is just one habitat improvement project of many that are making efforts to help the struggling deer herd in the Upper Peninsula. These volunteers are doing their part in conservation and there are more opportunities to keep up the fight. Join us with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation next weekend on Saturday, June 6th, to plant native hawthorns and oaks in the Pigeon River Country State Forest; sign up here to volunteer or check out mucc.org/ontheground to find a habitat event near you!
This Meridian Twp doe tested positive for CWD, the first in a wild Michigan deer.
LANSING—Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials announced today that they have found Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a Meridian Township deer. The fatal neurological disease is transmitted among cervids (like deer and elk) through saliva and other fluids in deer and causes them to become emaciated and display odd behavior before succumbing to it. This is the first time that CWD has been found in a wild deer in Michigan.
“Our response to this initial positive deer is consistent with our Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan,” said Chad Stewart, deer and elk specialist for the DNR. “We’ve identified a three-county zone within ten miles of the infected deer. Within this zone, we will have our entire array of deer hunting seasons available, including early antlerless. We will also make additional antlerless licenses available and initiate a prohibition on feeding and baiting within this zone.”
Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), Michigan’s largest statewide conservation organization representing over 40,000 hunters, anglers and trappers, urges hunters to cooperate with the DNR’s CWD Response Plan. Baiting congregates deer and can speed the transmission of the disease. Additionally, hunters who harvest a deer in the surveillance area will be required to check their deer.
“Today’s announcement that a CWD-positive deer has been detected in Michigan’s wild deer herd is nothing short of tragic and today is a day many of us hoped would never come, though it is not wholly unexpected.” said Dan Eichinger, executive director of MUCC. “Michigan’s DNR is a national leader in planning for wildlife disease response and MUCC members know they will move swiftly to implement their response plan.”
The news comes just three years after a deadly wave of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) took a heavy toll on deer in localized areas of southern Michigan in 2012, and the deer harvest has fallen statewide for two consecutive years, as has hunter participation. If CWD spreads within Michigan’s wild deer herd, those declines could be sharply exacerbated. Deer have tested positive for CWD in 23 other states and two Canadian provinces. Neighboring Wisconsin has been dealing with the impacts of CWD for since last decade, and management efforts to contain the disease have caused conflict between hunters and Wisconsin’s DNR.
“MUCC stands ready to assist the DNR in controlling and eradicating this devastating disease in any way we can,” said Eichinger. “We encourage all hunters to do the same.”
“Michigan has a long tradition of hunter support and conservation ethics. Now, with the CWD finding, that support is needed more than ever,” said Steve Schmitt, veterinarian at the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab, in a statement. “Historically, areas where chronic wasting disease has been found have experienced a decline in hunter numbers. Because hunters are often familiar with the deer herd locally, one of the best things they can do to help manage this disease is to continue hunting and bring their deer to check stations this season.”
The infected six-year-old doe (pictured) weighed just 93 pounds, below the average for a mature doe. Genetic testing confirmed that the doe was a local, free-ranging Ingham County deer, not an escapee from a captive cervid facility. The deer had been reported by local residents concerned about its odd behavior. CWD was last found in a captive cervid facility in Kent County in 2008, triggering an earlier version of the CWD Response Plan at that time.
Founded in 1937, Michigan United Conservation Clubs is the largest statewide conservation organization in Michigan. Its mission is to unite citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor heritage.
For more information about CWD in Michigan, visit the DNR website at: http://www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases/0,4579,7-186-25806---,00.html
Last week I had the privilege of being on the Wired to Hunt podcast. We talked about my position, what cooperatives are, and how to handle a slew of situations that cooperatives deal with. If you have not listened it, it is worth your while to do so! You can listen to it here.
I wanted to dig deeper into one of the topics of discussion: encouraging increased harvest standards from cooperative members. One of the questions that Dan brought up was how to address a cooperative member who did not follow the guidelines agreed upon by the cooperative as a group. My answer was along the lines of remembering private landowners still retain legal rights to do what they will on their own property and trust may not have been established yet.
When you are part of a wildlife cooperative, respecting private landownership and gaining trust are essential. It will take a couple years to build the relationships within the group, as well as for deer to mature. Entering into a cooperative scenario, it is vital that we remember that as long as activity being conducted on private land is legal, they are entitled to that activity. It may not fit into the goals you hope to accomplish, but their rights and a private landowner must be respected. The last thing you want to do is create a rift between you and a cooperative member because they are not following the “agreed upon cooperative guidelines.”
In regards to the levels of trust, it is important to remember where the group came from. Many hunters harvest a deer because they feel that their neighbor will harvest if if they do not. This is not a feeling that is going to go away instantly once a cooperative is formed. Be patient, and create environments where people can grow in their trust for each other.
The best way to instigate change in behavior on your cooperative, is to embody that standard. Hold yourself to a higher standard, encourage those publicly who are doing the same thing. At the same time, do not demean or speak negatively about or to your neighbors who have not decided to dive in fully just yet. Be patient that in time they may decide to pass younger deer too. You never know, and you don’t want to burn a bridge and eliminate the potential for them to be fully on board with the cooperative goals and harvest standards.